The battle over the FY11 budget seems to be drawing to a head. With the funding measure currently keeping the government open set to expire this Friday, federal employees are bracing for a shutdown as congressional leaders continue their efforts to hammer out a deal. On Tuesday, President Obama convened a meeting at the White House with leadership from both the Senate and the House of Representatives to try to reach a compromise. Unfortunately, no agreement was reached, with Democrats balking at the proposed level of cuts pushed by Republicans. Weeks of compromise have brought the two sides somewhat closer together on the total amount of spending cuts, with reports emerging that a compromise of $40 billion in cuts, relative to President Obama’s FY11 request, would be palatable to both sides. Though Democrats have begrudgingly agreed to $33 billion in cuts, they are adamant about not going above that number. However, Republicans have continued to insist on obtaining the entire $61 billion in cuts that was approved by the House back in January.
Meanwhile, House Appropriations Committee chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) has introduced yet another short-term continuing resolution that would continue to fund the government until April 15, giving lawmakers another week to work on an agreement. This newest CR would cut an additional $12 billion from discretionary spending; however, none of the cuts would be taken from either the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation. In addition, the bill would fund the Defense Department for the remainder of FY11, eliminating it as a source of any potential cuts. Both President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) rejected the proposed CR, insisting that a permanent funding measure be adopted. Obama emphasized that using perpetual short-term funding measures “is not a way to run a government.”
Due to new House rules that bills be made public 72 hours in advance of a vote, the House would need to put forth the spending bill by Wednesday morning in order for a vote to occur on Friday, thus avoiding the shutdown. ASBMB will continue to monitor and report on the situation as details become available.